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May 19, 2024

Major Space Missions Set for Launch in 2024

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Jan 5, 2024

2024 is shaping up to be a monumental year for space exploration, with multiple high-profile missions to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond slated to get underway. Key events include NASA’s risky attempt to snag a sample from Mars, SpaceX and Blue Origin vying to dominate commercial access to the lunar surface, the launch of cutting-edge space telescopes, and a widely anticipated total solar eclipse.

NASA Aims to Retrieve First Mars Rock Sample

The headline space mission for 2024 is undoubtedly NASA’s audacious bid to retrieve rock samples collected by the Perseverance rover on Mars. If successful, it would mark the first time materials from another planet have been brought back to Earth for intensive study.

A complex sequence involving multiple vehicles launching at precise intervals will be required to pull off the sample return. First, a lander containing a small rocket will touch down on Mars near Perseverance. The rover will then transfer its cached samples to the lander. The lander will blast the container into Martian orbit, where an ESA-built spacecraft awaits to receive it and ferry it back to our planet in 2033.

The campaign’s architects consider it NASA’s highest-risk endeavor since the Apollo moon landings, with little margin for error. If triumphant, it would cap a decade-long goal of the Mars Sample Return program and revolutionize our understanding of the Red Planet’s potential to harbor life.

Vehicle Launch Date Purpose
Sample Retrieval Lander May 2024 Carry small rocket to fetch sample tubes left on Mars surface by Perseverance
Earth Return Orbiter September 2024 Transport sample container from Mars orbit back to Earth

Private Moon Landers to Offer Lunar Delivery Services

TheMoon is emerging as the top commercial destination in space, with multiple companies gearing up to offer transportation and delivery services on the lunar surface in 2024.

SpaceX is planning an uncrewed test flight of its Starship mega-rocket to the Moon’s south pole in 2024. The experimental craft will carry scientific payloads and technology demonstrations. If successful, it would pave the way for Starship to begin ferrying astronauts and large cargo shipments between Earth and lunar outposts later in the decade.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin intends to debut its Blue Moon commercial lander in 2024 as well. The company is currently vying for a NASA contract to use Blue Moon to deliver scientific instruments, rovers and other payloads to the lunar surface twice per year starting in 2024.

The parallel arrival of these two heavy-lift private launch systems could kick off an era of regular freight delivery runs between our planet and its celestial companion.

Next-Gen Space Telescopes to Probe Cosmic Mysteries

A new generation of sophisticated space-based telescopes launching in 2024 will cast an unprecedented view on exoplanets, black holes, and the early universe.

Nancy Grace Roman Telescope

Slated for October 2024, NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will conduct an ambitious infrared survey of the cosmos over 5+ years. With a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble, it aims to discover thousands of exoplanets, elucidate dark energy, and glimpse the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.

Xuntian Space Telescope

Meanwhile China is poised to loft the similarly trailblazing Xuntian telescope into orbit in late 2024. Part of an orbiting observatory called the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST), Xuntian will have over 300x the light-gathering area of Hubble. It is expected to capture unprecedented views of star-forming regions, supermassive black holes, and some of the earliest cosmic structures.

Total Solar Eclipse to Grace North America

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will track diagonally across North America, offering millions of spectators a dramatic few minutes of daytime darkness. The Moon’s shadow will first make landfall along the Pacific Coast, then traverse the continent to the Atlantic seaboard over the course of about 90 minutes.

States in the direct path of totality include Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. But even areas outside the path of total eclipse will witness a partial eclipse, making it a widely viewable event across the continent.

The eclipse coincides with the launch windows for several of 2024’s high profile space missions, portending a thrilling year of space spectacle.

Outlook: Growing Investment in Space Exploration

On the whole, 2024 is shaping up to be arguably the most action-packed year for space development since the Apollo era. Several experts suggest the variety of government and commercial missions headed to diverse cosmic destinations reflects a “global space race” driven by rising investment in space technology.

Annual global spending on space initiatives has grown by over 50% since 2010, for example, recently topping $424 billion. The expansion looks set to continue as both public and private entities jostle to secure their piece of the boundless frontier. From asteroid mining to space-based solar power to extraterrestrial habitats, ambitious new proposals seem limited only by imagination and funding.

Thus 2024’s missions may constitute merely the spark that ignites a new era of rapid space industrialization. If these coming probes and rockets find success, their achievements could drive policy, business and public interest toward supporting permanent infrastructure for exploring and utilizing space. By decade’s end, the dawn of lunar and Martian outposts sustaining long-term human habitation could be imminent.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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